Previewing the upcoming season with beat writer Angelique Chengelis

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football
Excitement for the upcoming season is growing daily. Fans want to know who is standing out and how exactly their team will excel and struggle during the year.

To get a pulse and further expand on the upcoming Michigan season, I recently spoke with Detroit News beat writer Angelique Chengelis to discuss Michigan football and a few key points this year.
JH: In your opinion, what do you feel are some reasonable expectations for the Michigan football team this season (such as wins, outcomes of MSU and OSU games, conference standings, etc.)? 
Chengelis: This opinion hinges on whether Devin Gardner stays healthy the whole season. If that’s the case I’m looking at Michigan as a two- or three-loss team, and there are a couple of swing games, as there always are. People often point to the Notre Dame game as the one that could determine which way the season will go for both teams. I think that’s fair, and I like Michigan’s chances in that game for a lot of reasons. Playing at Michigan State has proven tough the last few years, obviously. Yes, MSU has questions marks on offense heading into the fall, but that defense could be formidable. I see a low-scoring, edge-of-your-seat kind of game that could go either way. Right now, I’m giving the homefield edge to MSU. The other potential trip-up game is on the road at Northwestern. The Wildcats have a lot of confidence coming off last season and the bowl victory, and they have a ton of talent. Surely, the Nebraska game will be tough, but I like Michigan winning at home, and the finale against Ohio State could be one of the best. While the preseason rankings of the two teams are pretty diverse, they look like they could be fairly even. I like Michigan playing at home and having Jake Ryan fully healed and leading the defense.

JH: Every one is buzzing about the talent of Derrick Green and what he can bring to the running backs this season if the coaching staff decide to play him. Who do you feel will be the starting running back and will Green see any extended playing time this season? Do you feel he is too talented to redshirt? 

Chengelis: This is not new, is it? Hotshot freshman coming in, he’s got to play, right? If there’s a position where a freshman can make an impact, it’s tailback, but I think Fitz Toussaint has a renewed drive entering his final season. He proved a lot to himself rehabbing from the broken leg, and he seems to thrive on having the hotshot freshmen — don’t forget De’Veon Smith — coming in to push for the job. Green has a lot to learn. It would be great to redshirt him if he’s not “there” yet, and he did get slowed during camp with an ankle injury. Don’t overlook Justice Hayes, but the guy I think could be a surprise is Smith.

JH: The quarterback situation gets particularly murky when looking at the depth chart. If Devin Gardner were to go down, there isn’t exactly depth as far as in-game experience on the chart due to Bellomy tearing his ACL. Shane Morris has been particularly hyped coming in to this season as well. Do you feel the coaching staff will try to redshirt him and hope that Gardner doesn’t get hurt? Or do you see him getting some playing time in garbage minutes?

Chengelis: Murky is a kind description. If Gardner gets hurt, that’s a swing of a LOT of games. I keep hearing Brian Cleary has improved immensely and doesn’t look like the same quarterback from a year ago. He’s a smart guy, for sure, but does he have the talent of Morris? Probably not. It would be ideal to redshirt Morris. Ideal.. But this is not an ideal situation with Russell Bellomy out — amazing how an injury can change so much. I don’t think Morris redshirts, and I think he’s the backup, but NOT before Cleary gets a shot.

JH: Who do you feel on the offensive side of the ball is going to breakout and have himself a big year?

Chengelis: I want to say a few names on the offensive line, but it’s tough to single out a lineman, isn’t it? (Still, I think Kyle Kalis and Jack Miller will be hugely important to how this offense goes). You’ve got to look at the big young receivers, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. People are more familiar with Darboh, having seen him a bit last year, although he didn’t catch a pass. Chesson is coming off a redshirt year, and I love his approach. Both are athletic, both can make the big play.

JH: How about the defensive side of the ball? Who is going to have a huge year?

Chengelis: I think we all think Frank Clark will have a big year. The defense is designed for him to have a big year. He is a tremendous athlete with so much upside. I also think Blake Countess, coming off the knee injury that knocked him out last season, has plenty to prove and will progress as he should have a year ago at cornerback.

JH: Out of all the members of the impressive freshman class Hoke has coming in, who is going to establish himself the quickest on the depth chart and who will have the best season?

Chengelis: Taco Charlton. We’ve heard his name a lot this preseason, and I think Greg Mattison likes how Charlton practices. Now, it’s about game action. In the end, we probably will hear Shane Morris’ name, too, and don’t forget what I said earlier, De’Veon Smith.

JH: Final question, do you feel this is a Rose Bowl caliber team? A lot of talk is made about the Buckeyes and how they were undefeated last year. But, do you think Michigan can get past them potentially twice this year?

Chengelis: First of all, I know what Kirk Herbstreit said recently about the traditionalists not wanting to see Michigan-Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. I’m a traditionalist and I want to see it — why not? Only time it can happen, and how cool would that be, especially if you consider where both teams might be going into that final regular-season game and will that change strategies, etc. Ohio State will be very good, no doubt. The Buckeyes lost quite a bit on defense, but like Michigan, they have a lot of younger guys who got some experience a season ago and will be ready to step in. Michigan is a young team, but it’s a young team with the kind of talent Brady Hoke wants to coach and mold. I like Michigan’s chances — with a healthy Devin Gardner — in the final regular-season game at Michigan Stadium. A potential meeting in the Big Ten title game? That’s what I want to see, but that one is tough to call.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.